Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu appealed to South Africans to resuscitate the values associated with its early days of democracy as he marked 30 years since receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.
“My plea to my compatriots, to government and civil society, faith leaders and educators, parents and elders and youth, is to institute programmes and trigger discussions aimed at resuscitating the national spirit of magnanimity and common purpose- and fostering self-esteem and self-worth.”
Tutu, 83, said he was honoured to have received the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 1984.
“The feeling of national euphoria that took hold in those early years of our democracy masked the necessity for us to follow through the work of healing a society battered and bruised by centuries of racial division and oppression,” he said in a statement.
Mechanisms aimed at redistributing wealth had largely failed with the gap between rich and poor having widened.
The education system was also not succeeding in lifting people out of poverty.
“All these factors contribute to retarding the healing of the soul of the nation, and conspire to create the environment for the intolerable levels of violence and racism that bedevil our society today,” Tutu said.
He reflected on stories that dominated South African media coverage this year.
These included the trial of paralympian Oscar Pistorius for shooting dead his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp.
Tutu said: “Our women and children seem constantly under threat from predator men”.
Another news story he referred to was the wrapping up of the Commission of Inquiry into the events at Marikana in 2012.
On August 16 two years ago, 34 people, mostly striking miners, were shot dead by police in a confrontation that Tutu said “mirrored the worst apartheid police atrocities”.
“It's as if we're in a time warp, and have returned to the past.
“Thirty years ago, on acceptance of the Peace Prize, I reflected on the rich bounty God had given South Africa; there were enough of the good things for all to live in dignity. This remains the case.”
Tutu said one of former president Nelson Mandela's greatest gifts had been to teach South Africans to “see beyond pigmentation, beyond gender, sexual orientation, social status and religious belief to acknowledge the worth of all people”.
The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation said on Tuesday that Tutu had cancelled his travel plans for the rest of the year because he was starting a new course of medication to manage the prostate cancer he has been living with for 15 years.
Tutu's daughter said he would no longer attend the Nobel Peace Laureates Summit in Rome this week.